Islamabad - Facing a drought-like situation, Pakistan has been placed on the list of countries facing acute water scarcity but election manifestos of major political parties did not have any roadmap for building new water reservoirs to address the looming crisis.
With less than a month to go for polls, the fervour for the ensuing polls is at its peak in the country and the political parties are struggling hard to pick electable candidates, who can win elections for them, giving a scant consideration for issues of vital importance.
In the election heat, leaders have much to sell in terrorism-hit and financially crippled country, no wonder the water issue has not been touched by almost any of them and instead, they are confusing voters with the slogan of education, jobs and better quality of life.
“Vote ko izat do” and “BB ka wada nibhana hai Pakistan bachana hai”, are the new election slogans of two major political parties — the Pakistan Muslime League-Nawaz and the Pakistan People’s Party.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, which emerged as one of the major political parties of the country after the 2013 general election, also lacks any roadmap vis-à-vis providing clean drinking water to the people.
Political party manifestos — a core documents through which the electorate is able to make an educated and informed decision about their vote and in which political parties enunciate important issues which they would address after they come to power— also lack pledges to build new water reservoirs or dams at the national level.
It is water and not a democracy, jobs, education or any ideological or personal war, which is the most urgent issue of the country which needs immediate attention that is threatening the very existence of the people in the country.
According to a United Nations recent report, the most immediate and serious impact for people of Pakistan was water availability.
“Pakistan is on track to become the most water-stressed country in the region, and 23rd in the world, by the year 2040. No person in Pakistan, whether from the north with its more than 5,000 glaciers, or from the south with it’s ‘hyper deserts’, will be immune to this,” said the report.
The water crisis did not take place abruptly but it has been pushed to this stage by the sheer negligence of political leaders over decades.
"Either it is 2008 elections, or 2013 or present general polls, constructing new water reservoirs or dams has never been a priority of the political parties,” said Election Commission of Pakistan former secretary Kanwar Dilshad.
He said that legally election manifesto is a promise of parties with the voters and the election commission has nothing to do with it, however, he said, he had written to the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms that while submitting papers to the election commission, parties must explain to what extent, they implement their election manifestos, but it was not taken up.
The PML-N has yet to announce its new election manifesto, however, the “vote ko izzat do” is the new slogan of the PML-N, on the basis of which it has been running its campaign.
Following the PML-N’s footsteps, the PPP is also trying to buy votes through emotional appeals.
“It is a historic occasion that a second democratic transition is about to take place in the country. On the one hand, this seems to be a big step in the right direction, on the other hand, conspiracies being hatched by enemies of democracy are at their peak,” PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said while presenting the party manifesto last week.
The PTI in its election manifesto repeated its old mantra of safeguarding the country from corruption, abuse of power and injustice after coming to power, ignoring the core water issue.
According to WAPDA's latest data, Tarbela Dam is almost at dead level with 1,402.28 million acres feet against the minimum operating level of 1386 MAF, Mangla is at 1,115.40 MAF against 1,050 minimum operating level, while Chashma is at 640.30 MAF against the minimum operating level of 638.15 MAF.
The Pakistan Meteorological Department has been warning time and again to harvest water to overcome the water scarcity issue.
In its outlook for summer monsoon 2018, it advised water managers to take measures to store water of monsoon rains.
Many believe that not only politicians but also the all-powerful military that watch every move closely also failed to play its role in getting new reservoirs built and stop India from building new dams on rivers reportedly belong to Pakistan.